This article originates from Women In 3D Printing and is part of our effort to support the use of 3D printing technology by women. The article is re-published with permission.
Cecile is the co-founder of Printr, a Netherlands-based startup that is willing to disrupt the 3D printing industry by making the technology easy and accessible for everyone. In 2015 the company was selected as one of the 50 most promising startups in the world by the Kairos Society. Cecile is a strong advocate of entrepreneurship and women in tech. She started an initiative, Alt 12, to create a business network where men and women work side by side to build great things. She’s a member of the Advisory Board of StartupDelta, an organisation dedicated to establish a thriving and competitive startup ecosystem in the Netherlands. Furthermore Cecile serves a a role model for young entrepreneurs in the network of ‘Jong Ondernemen’.
Her work as a young, female entrepreneur in tech is being recognized, as she was nominated for the VIVA400 and won the 2015 Pitch Competition of The Next Women. Most recently, Cecile was listed in the Inspiring Fifty Netherlands 2016, a list of the top 50 inspirational women in the technology sector in the Netherlands.
Nora Toure: Cecile, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
Cecile Van Der Waal: I’ve always been incredibly interested in technology and its impact on human interaction. From an early age on, I was not the type of kid to play with barbies or strollers, but instead was into gadgets and I loved arts & crafts. So getting into 3D printing was a no-brainer.
Nora Toure: Could you detail your first experience with 3D Printing? – Do you remember your first 3D printed design?
Cecile Van Der Waal: During my bachelor in Creative Technology at University of Twente, a study where multiple disciplines come together to make new applications with technology, I met my co-founders Douwe and Chris. With a curiosity for technological innovations, they had bought a 3D printer and were playing around with various parameters, settings and materials. As I really wanted to try it out as well, I started hanging out with them in between classes. It might sound a bit uninspiring, but my first 3D printed object was actually just a keychain. The funny thing is; I still have it on my set of keys!
Nora Toure: You are one of the co-founders of Printr. I understand the vision of Printr is to simplify the relationship between consumers and 3D printers. How did you came with this idea in the first place?
Cecile Van Der Waal: As the three of us were playing around with the settings and parameters of the 3D printer Chris and Douwe had bought, we noticed that it was quite difficult to adjust the settings to our liking. Also, if something went wrong with a print during the process of printing, there was absolutely no way for the printer to provide feedback on this. In short, we came to the conclusion that 3D printing was a cumbersome, difficult and unproductive experience. So we set out to simplify and streamline this experience and make 3D printing accessible to everyone.
Nora Toure: How do you do that?
Cecile Van Der Waal: Printr’s ecosystem, consisting of The Element and Formide, eliminates the technical knowledge needed to control a 3D printer. The Element is a plug & play USB device that connects your 3D printer wirelessly to Formide, a cloud-based 3D printing platform. Altogether, Printr’s ecosystem offers you a streamlined 3D printing experience that allows you to queue, slice and print multiple projects on multiple printers with great productivity.
Nora Toure: You also started Alt 12. What can you tell us about this initiative?
Cecile Van Der Waal: With Alt 12 we’re focused on telling the story of up and coming female entrepreneurs. We want to shine a light on them, amplify their voice and inspire others with their stories. Stories about challenges we face as new or young entrepreneurs and not only the success stories you usually read.
Nora Toure: What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
Cecile Van Der Waal: 3D printing is still in its infancy. I always compare the era of 3D printing we’re currently in with the era computers were in back in the 1980s. During that time computers were only used in educational facilities and businesses. It was only until the 1990s that consumers started getting interested in personal computers. I can’t wait for 3D printing to get to that stage as well, because that’s when centralized manufacturing moves to distributed manufacturing and we can finally just download a piece of some furniture that’s been broken. I want to put 3D printing in the hands of as many people as possible and see what they will do with it. There are so many great things being created with 3D printing already, imagine what will happen when it becomes more accessible for everyone. This is also the stage wherein we foresee Printr playing a big role.
Nora Toure: In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Cecile Van Der Waal: I think the solution can start in the classrooms where gender roles are being defined from an early age on. If middle schools integrate coding or 3D printing classes in their curriculum where girls play an equally important role to boys, we will be able to bridge the gender gap in the technological sector and more specifically in 3D printing. I’m a strong advocate of diversity and equality of gender in the workplace. In fact, at Printr 40% of our employees are women and we have a total of 9 nationalities working with us. Not entirely equal yet, but we’re getting there, so come work at Printr ladies!
If you are interested in learning more about Cecile and Printr, I invite you to check her company’s website!
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Thank you for reading and for sharing!